• Cyclists’ interests ‘completely eroded’ in last-minute conciliation deal on rail

    The EU’s third railway package has been completed, but two cyclists’ umbrella organisations have accused ministers and the Commission of a betrayal of cyclists’ interests.

    As reported in the October Bulletin, MEPs approved the long-running debate on a package of four directives affecting rail, which included a bill of rights for rail passengers. The package was confirmed in a ‘common position’ last month when ministers approved three conciliation agreements.

    The approved deal was expected to include a new clause giving cyclists the right to take bicycles on trains, but now the European Twowheel Retailers Association (ETRA) and the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) say that right was withdrawn at the last minute in favour of a clause which it says ‘completely erodes’ the right cyclists had hoped to gain.

    ‘Much to ETRA’s and the ECF’s surprise,’ said a statement by the two, ‘the provision relating to the transport of bicycles which was adopted by a very large majority in the Parliament, has been completely eroded. The new article gives rail companies plenty of opportunities to refuse the carriage of bicycles. We were informed that this complete change from imposing the transport of bicycles to allowing it was forced through at the very end of the negotiations under pressure from the Council and the Commission.’

    The new Article 5 of the regulation on rail passengers’ rights and obligations says: ‘Railway undertakings shall enable passengers to bring bicycles on to the train, where appropriate for a fee, if they are easy to handle, if this does not adversely affect the specific rail service, and if the rolling-stock so permits.’

    The two organisations say their members must now lobby national rail companies to persuade them to carry bicycles. ‘We find the reluctance of the member states and the Commission to seriously develop bike transport by train regrettable, and all the more peculiar in the light of the ongoing debate on sustainability,’ they said.

    MEPs felt they had won a victory over the Commission by extending the bill of passengers’ rights from international journeys only (as intended in the original draft legislation) to domestic journeys as well.

    This news story is taken from the November 2007 edition of T&E Bulletin.